Handling Sadness and Mild Depression

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Depression with its characteristic sad face, stooped posture, and slow movements is universal;
it is found not only in humans in all cultures, but even in animals, notably, monkeys, chimpanzees, and dogs. 

In the English language, we have even invented a metaphor to describe a sad face, the "hang dog" appearance. 

Everyone now and then feels sad, unhappy or disappointed because of a thought, memory, behavior or spoken words. But then such feelings are cleared up in just a few hours and we get back to our normal mood. 

We refer to it "occasional sadness or blues. " In many cases, the sadness or depressed mood may last for not just hours but days and weeks, and may accompany problems, such as, loss of appetite, overeating, sleeplessness, excessive sleeping, lack of energy and drive, loss of interest and joy, etc. 

Unlike the occasional sadness, it is referred to as, "depression." Forty percent of the population reported occasional sadness or blues last year, out of which about nine percent (21 million) people experienced mild, moderate, or severe depression. 

Far more people, especially, of the younger generation, report being depressed today, than they did twenty, ten, or even five years ago. Our lives are inevitably touched by depression; a friend, relative, family member, or we personally will experience depression sometime in life. 

Here are a few "self help" tips to cope with occasional sadness and mild depression. Be aware these are not a substitute for treatment.
l. Take up a physical, repetitive action such as, skipping rope, bouncing a ball,
jogging, housecleaning, yard work, gardening, etc. Take up anything in which you can gradually build up your ability to move your body for 20 to 30 minutes. 

In the beginning, body may not want to move at all. You may have to start with a light physical action for just a few minutes. Don't compare what you can do now with that "vigorous work out" you could do in the pre-depressed state. That will only depress you further. Just whatever you can do deserves your praise. 

If you want to compare what you are able to accomplish now with what you could do in the pre-depressed period, factor in the " 100 lb. formula. "Imagine that you have an invisible weight of 100 lb. tied to your back, legs, and arms. If you factor that in, you will have a correct appreciation of your performance in the depressed state. 

2. Learn to divert yourself from the depressed mood by a) describing in minute detail the physical environment of a chosen area, such as the furniture, lights, fixtures, etc. b) expanding your awareness of the environment by seeing, hearing, feeling everything, relevant or irrelevant. c) engaging in an activity, such as, walking, reading, phone conversation, etc. 

3. Resume activities that you have enjoyed in the past. A depressed person is likely to give up the activities that provided pleasure and enjoyment. 

4. Imagine pleasant and relaxing experiences: Imagine scenes and situations that are pleasant and enjoyable to you, such as, playing golf, winning a lottery, basking in the sun on a sandy beach, etc. You can imagine a scene of the past , such as a vacation you had, or a happy event that is occurring in the future. The more details you can imagine, the less depressed you are likely to feel. Note, if you start picturing a negative, unpleasant experience in your mind, stop, get up, and do some activity or divert yourself. 

5 . Look for the humor or irony in a situation that makes you sad. 

6. Pretend being back in time when you were not depressed. Start with 15 or 30 minutes and gradually increase the duration. Look at the pictures, slides, or movies of yourself of happy times so you can exactly copy the facial expressions, body posture, talk, voice, etc. 

7. Assign a "depression time" for yourself, for example, "5.00 to 6.00 p. m. , " when you allow yourself to feel as depressed as you really are. At other times, try to involve yourself more fully in performing various tasks and achieving set goals. Whenever you feel the depressed mood coming on, remind yourself as to when you will let the depression have its time. 

8. View depression as a "nuisance" and not as a "catastrophe." Instead of telling yourself, "I can't stand this!" say, "I am strong enough to take this on" or "I will time it how long I can stand this. " This way you can avoid being anxious about depressed mood. 

9. Eschew self criticism. Compliment yourself for coping with depression. 

Get a professional evaluation to check your progress and need for treatment. These ideas can be used along with treatment.

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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